Garcia steady as Longhorns rally for district win

Lennard junior Pablo Garcia gave the Longhorns 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief allowing his offense to rally for an 11-7 win.

By Jarrett Guthrie, Editor

RUSKIN – Lennard found itself in a hole early against visiting East Bay, and needed someone to quiet down the Indians offense that put up crooked numbers in the first three innings.

Enter junior right-hander Pablo Garcia, who dropped the floor out from underneath the Indians in his relief outing, working a nasty sinker and fastball mix that stymied the East Bay hitters and gave the Longhorns the scoreless frames needed to mount a comeback, stealing an 11-7 district win.

Click here to view our full photo gallery from this game.

“Pablo’s sinker looks like a fastball until the bottom falls out,” Longhorns coach Victor Martinez said. “He gets a lot of swings over the ball. He’s someone who wants the ball all the time, and he just competes.”

Lennard’s Pablo Garcia.

While Garcia competed on the mound, Lennard (7-8) scored in each of the first five innings – none bigger than a six-run fourth that tipped things in the Longhorns favor, as Mattie Counts’ two-run double brought the game within a run, and small ball and aggression on the bases swung things quickly.

“He’s just a natural leader,” Martinez said of Counts. “He’s comes out every day and just gives his full effort. He’s someone we’ve enjoyed having for four years and we’ll miss him when he’s gone.”

Mattie Counts connects on this two-run double in the fourth inning. The USF signed outfielder was 2-for-4 in the win, with an RBI single earlier in the game. 

Early in the game, however, things snowballed on Lennard sophomore starting pitcher Talan Miranda. After hitting the first batter he faced, Shawn Dowe raced down the line for an infield single bringing Rory Beauford Jr. to the plate with two aboard. Beauford watched a strike and fouled off the second offering before unloading on a fastball and sending it clanging off the scoreboard in right-center for a three-run homer – his third of the season.

East Bay’s Shawn Dowe goes after a low pitch and sends a groundball to shortstop, legging out an infield single in the first. 

Miranda avoided further damage in the first, striking out three batters to end the inning, and struck out two more in the next inning, despite Beauford again delivering for his team, this time with a two-run single into right.

East Bay’s Rory Beauford Jr. is fired up after his first-inning three-run home run.

“He’s been great all season,” East Bay coach Rowland Ruiz Sr. said. “Rory has grown so much since last season, and I expect him to continue to grow on a daily basis because he is one of the hardest working young men I’ve ever had the privilege to coach.”

Longhorns catcher Mikie Locke throws a ball to second base. Locke was 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI double.

In response, Mikie Locke doubled in a run in the first, and the Longhorns added two in the second on an RBI single from Rowland Ruiz Jr. (playing against his father’s East Bay team) and another run-scoring single from Counts (2-for-4, two runs).

Longhorns third baseman Rowland Ruiz Jr. throws across the diamond for an out. The Lennard sophomore went 2-for-3 at the plate, with two runs and two RBI.

One hit, two errors and a hit batter added two more East Bay (8-5) runs in the third and chased Miranda from the mound. But Garcia was undaunted with the bases-loaded situation, striking out Beauford swinging, and getting a fly ball to get his team out of the jam.

“I was rushing them at the plate,” Garcia said, “throwing the sinker almost every other pitch. I just had to keep putting it on them.”

Kevin Hunter singled in a Longhorn run in the bottom of the third to cut the Indians lead to two, and the senior added an RBI walk to the six-run production from the Longhorns in the next inning.

Lennard senior Kevin Hunter scores in the second inning. Hunter was 1-for-2, with a walk, two RBI and two runs scored.

That fourth inning was textbook small ball as the Longhorns bottom of the lineup saw a walk drawn by Ruiz, followed by a perfectly-placed bunt in-between the mound and first base, beaten out for a hit by Peyton Newman. That put two on for Counts, who was initially given the bunt sign by Martinez.

Lennard senior Mattie Counts.

“I told Mattie to bunt, only because we’d had success putting the ball down on the ground and forcing them to make plays,” Martinez said. “Mattie is the type of kid who will do anything you ask to help his team out.”

Sophomore Peyton Newman pushes a bunt into no-man’s land between the mound and first base, reaching with a single in the fourth inning. Newman was 2-for-3, with a run and RBI.

The USF commit offered at two pitches, but wasn’t able to get the bunt down, instead settling for a double smoked into the left-center gap.

“I’m going to do what the coach asks me to do,” Counts said. “But when things don’t go your way, you have to adjust quickly – that’s part of the game – I saw a pitch close and put the best barrel I could to it.”

East Bay catcher DJ Terrell goes way, way up to corral a high pitch and keeping a runner in place at third base. 

The inning continued to build with another beautiful bunt from Locke (2-for-3) and RBI hits from Ruiz and Newman as the Longhorns batted around, sending 12 to the plate.

“We knew there was plenty of game left,” Counts said. “Sure, we faced adversity, but that just shows what this team is all about. We are not going to give up, no matter what, and as soon as the second half of the game turned, we took off and never looked back.”

Rory Beauford Jr. watches as his first-inning home run sails out to right-center.

“I’ve been saying it since the beginning of the year, ‘we need to stop that one, big inning,’” Ruiz Sr. said, “obviously, that didn’t happen tonight. We need to play with passion over emotion, and we definitely got a little too emotional there.”

The big inning forced East Bay starter Mike Mowel from the game after 3 2/3 innings, allowing seven earned runs, but finishing with nine strikeouts.

East Bay junior pitcher Mike Mowel. 

Garcia would hit a batter the fifth inning, but erased that mistake with an excellent pickoff move to first.

“He stepped up,” Counts said of Garcia. “He came in in a tough place when we were behind. He limited them, came in and did exactly what we needed him to do – keep us in this game.

“He gave us the time for us to wake our bats up.”

Bobby Hayes lines up one of his two singles for the Indians in the game.

Asked after the game, how important that pickoff was to squash an East Bay rally before it started, Garcia said.

“I wanted (that pickoff) with all my heart. I wanted that guy out.”

Garcia would finish his 3 2/3 innings of work, allowing just one hit, one walk and hit two batters, while striking out seven.

Lennard senior pitcher Zack Bird.

Senior Zack Bird struck out a pair in his 1-2-3 inning of work in the seventh to close out the win.

East Bay righty John Viane pitched a hitless sixth inning, striking out one.

Lennard has another Class 6A-11 game this week as the Longhorns travel to Bloomingdale on Friday; while East Bay hosts Newsome on Friday, and heads to Strawberry Crest on Saturday.

Johnathan Bryant celebrates after scoring for the second time in the game while serving as the courtesy runner for catcher Mikie Locke.

Lennard 11, East Bay 7

E 322|000|0 – |7|8|3
L 121|610|x – |11|9|2
W – Garcia (2-0); L – Mowel
2B – Garcia (E); Locke, Counts (L); HR – Beauford (E). Records – E (8-5); L (7-8).